Sunday, June 21, 2009

June Update

Credit Card Theft

I just had a pretty exhaustive week at work - a critical performance issue somehow found its way to a client production system and I barely got a few hours of sleep last week. Then on Friday when it seemed the issue was finally solved, I thought I would get some rest and wake up late... Nope - my dad woke me up at 6:00 AM in the morning to tell me someone was using his ICICI credit card from Lucknow to recharge their Airtel account. Now here's the interesting thing - ICICI Bank has recently force switched all their customers to iMint. My dad was so upset with this that he refused to use his ICICI card for several months. Then he used it (or rather had me use it) to pay his BSES Yamuna bill online on the 9th of this month. He hasnt used it after that - but exactly 10 days after using the card for BSES Yamuna, this happens. Suspicious isnt it?

In any case, I learnt some interesting things from that - how to send a fax via my laptop's inbuilt modem for one, how to add a fax printer and print to it from a Windows program, via the built in Fax service. Its a good idea to wipe the CVV code from your credit card so no one can copy it when you hand it off at a restaurant. Try to set up Verified By Visa or MasterCard SecureCode for all your cards. I used to use HDFC Bank Netsafe to generate temporary credit cards extensively when I started buying things online, keeping my credit card only for trusted sites that forced me to store the credit card info (like iTunes!) - I guess I got really lax on this one!

Also, use Firefox/Chrome/Opera/Safari for all transactions - anything except IE! By the way, M$ used one of their recent security updates (!) to sneakily install a nasty little .Net Framework Assistant into Firefox - which essentially allows ActiveX like code to run in Firefox - destroying the very reliability which forms one of the frameworks of Firefox. Initially, you had to do registry manipulations to get rid of it. After a lot of people cried foul on the web, M$ quietly released an update that allow you to uninstall it from within Firefox itself. Sigh... One last thing - I found a nifty little extension that will warn you when a password field is being submitted on a non-secure page - I wish Firefox hadn't removed the Yellow URL Field feature with 3.0. While you can bring it back (using Stylish) or make Firefox hilight secure pages, it still greatly reduces the security of Firefox in my POV. The extension is still experimental though.

iPod Touch Firmware 3.0

The other big thing to happen this week was the release of Firmware 3.0 for the iPod Touch. The three biggest features according to me? Micro-transactions, Spotlight and Bluetooth (Peer-To-Peer as well as Audio). The bluetooth thing is pretty amazing - here's some hardware that was always there in my iPod, I just had no way to access it and bang - its there, I can use it. Spotlight is nice in that I no longer have to scroll pages and pages of apps to get to what I need (I have 6 pages of Apps), thus allowing someone (who's crazy enough) to have more than 11 pages of apps if they want. Apple has added a lot of stuff with this update, although some people seem to have gone a bit nuts documenting every single thing.

Of course the update didnt go completely smoothely - I (very foolishly) had ZoneAlarm Firewall and Avast! Antivirus running while updating, and the update promptly failed with "Unknown Error 1604", leaving my iPod dead and me scared for a few minutes. A bit of searching and I found someone mentioning turning off their Firewall/Anti-Virus and trying again. I did that, restarted iTunes and lo! it restored and updated my iPod. Luckily I had bought the update for $9.99, not grabbed it off the internet, or else I would have been twice as scared - just having successfully voided my warranty.

I am very impressed (possibly even awed) with Apple's attention to detail. Not only did my apps, bookmarks, wireless settings get saved, but also all my app data. This was pretty significant, since I use Stanza and also have a lot of save games:) The only thing it seemed to miss was Contacts synched from Google, which came back the moment I opened the Contacts app. But what really took the biscuit was that they even backed up my wallpaper and the location of every single app on each page. As a fellow programmer, I understand how much hard work this would entail. Amazing! I am pretty satisfied with my iPod Touch right now - at least until 3GS exclusive games start coming up (although hopefully that wont be soon!)

The other interesting thing I tried out was installing iTunes 64-bit on my Window 7 installation and sharing my iTunes library between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It seems to work, but I would still backup my ITL file before trying!


Lastly, it seems Airtel is now censoring the internet although they seem to have backed off from their ridiculous Fair Usage Policy a bit. Time to break out the Tor Browser Bundle people!
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